Thursday, May 21, 2015

Motor City Comic Con and back again

Motor City Comic Con has been a landmark event since before Great Lakes Base even existed.  Some of my earliest and fondest memories of trooping have involved a roadtrip up to Michigan for the annual comic book convention and assembly of Rebel Legion and 501st members.  The convention has grown significantly over the years and Great Lakes Base has had to grow along with it.

Because of travelling for Star Wars Celebration, for budget reasons Snips and I elected to attend this year’s Motor City in a single day-trip on Saturday; like in the old days.  Early on a Saturday morning, we loaded up the car and plotted our “navicomputer” for the Novi (just outside of Detroit) system.  Driving with a GPS for Motor City Comic Con is somewhat ironic, because after so many years of making this pilgrimage up to the Suburban Collection Showcase (home of MCCC) would be something we could do on memory alone? We probably could… but as a Luke Skywalker fan, “I like to keep it on Manual Control for a while.” 

photo by: Anna Rossman
Once we found parking and get inside the convention hall, the thing that struck me the most is how jam-packed the show floor is with vendors, artist and celebrity guests.  Motor City has always been known for booking a wide selection of guests from your favorite TV shows, movies and even wrestling.  This year, Jeremy Bulloch -- Rebel Legion Honorary Member and “Boba Fett” from the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi – was in attendance.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bulloch and his wife at several events over the years; but it’s fun to watch the NEW members get to meet him for the first time.  There was even a significant number Ohio Mercs from Rancor Clan who drove up just to see the original Mandalorian bounty hunter.

In addition to meeting some of your favorite sci-fi/comic book stars, another great thing about Motor City Con is the Star Wars fan group area – which Great Lakes Base shares with Great Lakes Garrison, R2-Builders and Suumpir’ade Clan.  Motor City Comic Con has always been one of the largest assembly of Star Wars costumers from Michigan and Ohio – but also nearby Garrisons and Bases from other states.  The group picture on Saturday has become something of an event in it’s own right.  They almost need to include it on the event program schedule.  Anytime you bring close to 50+ Star Wars costumers together in one place, it tends to draw a large crowd of people with cameras.  

photo by: Kristie Johnson

Even after all these years, the Star Wars groups remain a BIG HIT with fans attending Motor City Comic Con!

In between photo shots and running to get in line for your favorite guest autograph or panel, the other great thing about Motor City Comic Con is that it is a chance to meet fellow GLB and GLG members that you normally only interact with on the boards or facebook.  As I talked with some of our newest GLB members, it occurred to me that many of the people I remember from past MCCC conventions have long since retired from Star Wars costuming.  I don’t mention this as a “sad” thing (quite the opposite) because it means these NEW generation of Rebel Legion members are just beginning to build their own “Motor City Comic Con” memories!  And that is something I look forward to driving up next year to hear about.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Walk for Wishes

by: Vebb Baraka

photo by Kristie Johnson
This past weekend at the Detroit Zoo, Great Lakes Base members joined our counterparts from the Great Lakes Garrison to troop the 2015 Southeast Michigan Walk for Wishes.  This was the 17th annual event, and serves as one of the biggest fundraisers for the Make a Wish Foundation of Michigan, which grants about one wish per day for medically eligible children in the state of Michigan. 

It was a gorgeous day for a walk at the zoo, and we helped set the mood for the event by mingling with participants, posing for picture, and even leading the dance party prior to the opening ceremonies.  We even got to appear in a live news brief that featured one of the Make a Wish Foundation “Wish Kids.”  It was a great day of spreading smiles and making memories to help a great cause. 

The event enjoyed record breaking attendance with over 4,500 participants who helped to raise more than $450,000 for the Make a Wish Foundation of Michigan, making it their largest fundraiser of the year, as well as one of the biggest Make a Wish fundraisers in the country.

The Dudas Abides

I have been doing this “Star Wars” thing for a long time!  Have been trooping with Rebel Legion for just over 10 years; longer if you count the days under the banner of the local Fanforce chapter.  As a result, there are certain events (and hosts) which have become not just annual tradition – but in some cases, long-time friends.

The Free Comic Book Day midnight release party at Carol and John’s Comic Book Shop is one of those times!

Free Comic Book Day is a nationwide initiative to promote reading, where comic book publishers issue special editions of popular comic books that are FREE (hence the name of the event) to pickup at comic shops and libraries all across the country.  What makes FCBD at Carol and John’s so unique is that they host an annual celebration the night before, with local comic fans lined up around the block, leading up to midnight when the doors open and fans can be the first to pickup their FCBD comics.  I’m 100% serious: there are people lined up as early as 4:00pm for comic books that will be available al over Cleveland the following morning.

photo courtesy:
Yet it’s NOT just a race to get your hands on the latest comic book that makes FCBD at Carol and John’s so special… it is the party-like atmosphere that draws the “true believers” to Kamm’s Corner; and that’s where we come in.  Every year, John Dudas (the “John” in Carol and John’s) invites Great Lakes Base, Ohio Garrison, Rancor Clan and joining us this year was Heroes Alliance to help entertain the crowd waiting outside.  As you’d expect, we take A LOT of pictures with people; many of them wearing costumes of their own.  Over the years, I’ve start to recognize faces in the crowd, because of the loyal following Carol and John’s has among the comic book community in Cleveland.

GLB "Mission Photos" - Carol and John's FCBD

At 10:00pm the “official” party begins!  In addition to the store being open late, Carol and John’s also uses an empty store as an “artist’s row” – with various local comic artists selling sketch art they create that evening.  There is also an art gallery, with comic book related artwork, available for sale.  Carol and John’s also works with local brewers to create special craft beers for the occasion; this year’s bottles were themed after the release of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

Eventually, the clock strikes 12:00 and fans pickup their favorite FCBD comic books!  I have been trooping FCBD at Carol and John’s for as long as I can remember and look forward to it every year!  John Dudas and Carol (his mother) are two of my favorite people to work with in planning events in the “Cleveland” system. Only 51 weeks to go until Free Comic Book Day 2016…

The Dudas Abides!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Help UofM Coach Harbaugh, you're my only hope!

by: MiraxTHorn

In my time as a member of both the Rebel and 501st Legions, I've been blessed to troop in at least six states and a wide variety of events.  I have so many wonderful memories of days spent putting smiles on the faces of kids, both young and old.  But on Saturday, May 2nd, the biggest smile of the night was put on MY face due to a chance encounter with someone I've admired for about 28 years.  Let me explain how this encounter came about.

Have you heard of the Wolverines Trooper?  Jon “Blasty” Leopold is a University of Michigan SUPER FAN, as well as a member of the Great Lakes Base and Great Lakes Garrison.  Over the last several years, Jon has become a popular fixture at Michigan sporting events wearing stormtrooper armor fully decorated in UofM Maize and Blue.  His popularity and persistence convinced the athletic department to host a “Star Wars Night” at a Wolverines men's baseball game.  The event proceeded as most do, with lots of photos, happy kids and Darth Vader throwing out the first pitch.  The costumers wandered the concourse as we typically do and participated in a t-shirt toss between innings. 

About halfway through the game, Blasty suggested some of us go walk around the stands between innings to pump up the crowd.  He walked toward an entrance tunnel so I followed along.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a face I immediately recognized as Jim Harbaugh, the newly hired Michigan Football coach.  I grabbed Blasty's arm, exclaimed "It's Jim!" and we headed back out of the tunnel to try to get a photo with him!

The Coach was gracious and willingly granted our request for a photo, though he was a little baffled by our costumes.  I explained that it was "Star Wars Night at the ball park".  Our photo op quickly drew the crowd's attention and the Coach was bombarded with photo and autograph requests.  Blasty was able to get Jim's autograph on a Wolverines Trooper trading card and to give the Coach one of his cards as well.

As for that huge smile I mentioned, I stood around after our photo grinning like an idiot.  I have been a lifelong Wolverine, in fact: I was born on campus, and I have also been a Harbaugh fan for almost as long.  Jim Harbaugh was Michigan's QB when I first started watching football.  I followed his career from Michigan to Chicago to Indianapolis and then into coaching.  I held my breath with the Michigan Nation the first time Jim's name came up in the search for a new coach.  And I rejoiced when he was finally announced as the head coach late last year.  This is a man I have admired from afar for a very long time and I finally got to meet him!  I'm still grinning today! 

This is an event I will never forget!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rockin' Yuri's Night

I have been trooping at Yuri’s Night since 2009, since the event first started in Cleveland.  As a kid who grew up a fan of both a Star Wars and NASA, this event is one of those dream trooping opportunities where I can enjoy both hobbies at the same time.  That is why I never pass up a chance to bring Great Lakes Base, Ohio Garrison, Rancor Clan and R2 Builders to the Great Lakes Science Center!

photo by: Joe Sokol
Yuri’s Night Cleveland is part of a worldwide celebration of space exploration; named after Yuri Gagarin – the first human to launch into space (April 12 th, 1961).  It also is the date of the first Space Shuttle launch back in 1981.  The event is also known as “World Space Party” in some places.  The event held at Great Lakes Science Center is covers all three floor of the museum, where guests can enjoy food, drinks, dance floor with live bands and DJs, as well as full access to the museum and NASA Glenn Visitor’s Center (located inside GLSC)

While many guests dress up in sci-fi or space-themed costumes, everyone is amazed when they see our crew of Star Wars characters walking around.  However, once again it was ScottyK and his R2-D2 who stole the show!  Being a Rebel Pilot, I love working with his R2 droid because it presents the opportunity to have a little fun with the guests as I play-acting "talk" with R2-D2 for everyone to hear… and Scotty (just a few feet away) can use his remote controls to move the droid to respond back to me.  Meanwhile, there are Stormtroopers, Jedi, Mandos spread out on every floor of the GLSC interacting with guest and posing for photos.  Honestly, once R2 has his line of photo requests next to the Skylab 3 module, my night consists of patrolling the museum checking on the rest of our crew.  Also happens to be a nice excuse to explore the GLSC! ;)

photo by: Joe Sokol
 This was a busy weekend on the Cleveland lakefront, as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (next door to the GLSC) was kicking off their Induction Week festivities; with FREE admission and a fireworks display off the deck of the steamship William G. Mather, docked between the two museums. 

After about three hours in costume, most of our guys change over into street clothes and enjoy the party!  Following the traditional balloon drop and march of the “Sam Adams" (one of the event sponsors) cardboard cutouts onto the dance floor, it’s time we make a discreet exit after yet another successful Yuri’s Night Cleveland.

Return of the Relay Jedi

by: flutefreak05

Over the weekend, I participated in the Relay for Life event held at Eastern Michigan University.  This event has a special meaning to me because it is at my school and also it was my first event with the Great Lakes Base last year.

For a second year in a row, I got to be the team captain and I had a lot of fun.  There was a little boy who would show me my trading cards I gave him when he would pass my campsite.  There was a little girl dressed as Princess Leia who smiled when she saw me.  There's was another little girl who loved my jedi costume and was happy when I posed for pictures and talked with her.  The campus police also got into it.  Although I was alone I got to raise money for a great cause and got to return to the event that started off my career with the rebellion.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Folly of TK-421

Now that the official announcement for Celebration Art Show has gone public, I am pleased to report that Chris Trevas will be one of the featured artists!  In fact, not only is the Michigan native and his latest work: “The Folly of TK-421” going to be available during Celebration VII… but we can now report that several members of Great Lakes Base were used as reference models by Chris while conceptualizing this particular piece of art.  I had the chance to speak with Chris about this, once the “Imperial blockade” on information was lifted.

AWRI: What inspired you to bring a previously unseen moment from the SW saga such as "The Folly of TK-421"to life?

CT: I always wondered what happened off-screen during that scene.  While working on various Millennium Falcon technical books, like the Haynes Millennium Falcon Owner's Manual, I would imagine different scenarios while looking at the floor plan of the ship.  What was the best way to ambush two pairs of Imperials as they came on board?  I pictured Chewie coming from the rear engineering area and Han from the cockpit side, their unsuspecting targets caught between them.  The smuggling compartments are the perfect place to hide the bodies of course!

AWRI: Fun fact = You held a small photo shoot during our GLB 5 year anniversary celebration where you used GLB members Kieron Dillon (as Han Solo) and Chris Blackstock (as Chewbacca) reference models.  How helpful was it for your creative process to have a pair of Rebel Legion costumers to visualize the scene in real-life ahead of time?

CT: It's extremely helpful to have detailed reference especially for a piece this large.  I first planned out the scene with 6-inch scale Black Series figures to get the basic perspective and composition down.  Shooting the action with live models I can work it out in more detail and really bring a scene to life.  Their accurate costumes let me get the lighting, fabric folds, Wookiee hair, and all the other little details just right.

AWRI: Celebration VII is big opportunity to have your artwork exposed to a wider audience, how would you rank "The Folly of TK-421" in your collection of work?

CT: It's hard for me to pick favorites from my work, but I'm very proud of my Celebration print series from the last few years and I think The Folly of TK-421 is a worthy successor to the others like “His Vision Returns” and “The Hunter and His Prey.”   Star Wars Celebration is usually the only convention I set up at so I spend a lot of time planning and doing my best work for the Art Show.